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Tiny stories to support case studies

Written by CarbonCulture Team from CarbonCulture Team on 25th March 2013

Sustainability case studies are great - they help people to know what works and what doesn't, but they're hard to write, hard to use, it can be hard to find the one you need, and when you have found some, it's hard to compare them. So maybe, in their current form, the way we all do case studies is actually not that great, althouth the intent is fantastic. Some of you may know that we've been doing some design work on case study structure, to make them easier to produce, easier to find, easier to put to use - altogether more usable. Plenty of people agree there must be a way to spread knowledge about sustainability best practices that isn't such a struggle, and we're beginning to release parts of that design now.

One key part of this is that we've been working on is tiny snippets of sustainability stories that people send around about their bigger case studies. These might be intended for internal distribution within a team or a business, or go external to customers, suppliers and stakeholders. These are tiny stories (you can see some live public examples right now on http://www.carbonculture.net/orgs/defra/ - called 'The changes we're making'), each of which comes with a picture. The stories appear on public page, and on internal ambient screens hanging on walls around the building (along with empirical performance data), as well as going to other interfaces for internal users.

These tiny stories will end up serving entry-point for more in-depth case study information, audited information about project efficacy and so on; but for the time being it's just a statement of a claim, an unbacked assertion. That's because want this to be informative, but so easy to produce that it can be considered effortless. One of the big barriers businesses face is finding the capacity to reliably publish new content often enough to keep things fresh, and this mechanism allows that to happen in a few minutes of effort each week. We will make make the nature of the claim clear, so that the lack of empirical backing becomes a piece of the meaning integral to a message.

Currently, we're thinking that each tiny story should:

  1. Connect some element of core business with a sustainability outcome (this could be any sustainability outcome - whether energy, carbon, social, biodiviersity, in local, national or international scope).
  2. Clearly mention the business' involvement/ role/ influence and briefly states the sustainability outcome
  3. If it is a staff-led activity, flags this using a reference to staff, employees, flight team, civil servants, scientists, or whatever

For example - "Lend Lease foodies in London have started a Thursday lunch club that already has 89 members. Joining up our lunches reduces packaging waste and transport movements, which reduces carbon impact and provides a great way of meeting new colleagues."

Stories like this can be used to help contextualise sustainability activity in a way that isn't so exclusive and geeky, and that fits into the values and behaviours that real people actually have. Do you have any thoughts on how we could make them better?


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